Anger as pensioners ‘blamed’ for Harpenden bus service cuts

PUBLISHED: 06:22 05 July 2012

Herts County Council

Herts County Council

Archant

A HARPENDEN retiree dependent on public transport because she suffers back problems and struggles to walk has lashed out at the county council for bus service changes.

Jan Storr, of Noke Shot in Batford, is upset after being told the Herts county council (HCC) subsidised HA1 service serving the area in the morning will cease on July 23.

However she is also angry at being fobbed off by someone “with attitude” at HCC who effectively blamed pensioners with bus passes for making bus trips unviable.

Jan explained that the HA1 provides a vital link for those, many of whom are elderly and have disabilities, attending medical appointments and social activities for older people in Harpenden.

HCC spent thousands of pounds installing bus stops for the HA1 route in Broadstone Road several years ago. Uno recently took over the HA1, morning, and HA2, afternoon, services.

Jan said an alternative morning service, the 620, was impractical as there was “no way” she and older residents could obtain a seat because it was packed with pupils.

She added: “There are at least two elderly couples on crutches who use that bus [HA1] to go to the Day Centre. People use it to go to hospital for surgery, doctor’s appointments or the Red House.”

Jan is particularly upset as when she approached HCC she received a “very off-hand response” from someone with “attitude”.

Told the service was unviable, Jan agreed that while the 5pm (HA2) was not well patronised, “the others are”.

The officer told her people could catch an alternative bus, the 620 from outside The George in the High Street instead.

But she said it was not appropriate to expect people with walking difficulties to make their way across the green from the Day Centre to that bus stop: “The council told me some people have taxi vouchers, but they are for emergencies, not for every day use.

“They said it costs them a lot because there are so many passengers using bus passes, that there are no paying passengers, it is not viable. So they want to blame us for it! Eight or nine years ago, I was paying to use that bus.”

Cllr Stuart Pile, council’s cabinet member for highways and transport said the HA1 and HA2 services between Harpenden and Batford were operated by Uno under contract with HCC.

He went on: “Over the past few years there has been a steady decline in the number of passengers using these services.

“In partnership with Uno, we are currently developing proposals in consultation with local councillors to provide a different service that will benefit the majority of passengers in the area.

“We apologise for any concern caused by the proposed changes to these routes.”

Cllr Pile said that HCC aimed to provide quality public transport services to all residents regardless of age, “and will ensure this continues once the plans for the new routes have been agreed.

“We do not foresee any bus stops used along the current routes being made redundant as a result of the new proposals.”

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